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Am I the only one who gets the shivers when I open a box only to discover it’s full of polystyrene packing peanuts? If there’s one commercial product I cannot abide it is packing peanuts. And there’re a lot of good reasons for my mania.

Packing peanuts are those typically white, petroleum-based cushioning products patented by Dow Chemical Company in the mid-1960s. They’re used in boxes or other conveyances to protect the object being shipped. Dow Chemical calls their polystyrene product Styrofoam, a word that’s gone into everyday currency for any product that’s remotely similar, like the material in a coffee cup. Scary as it may seem, there’re now different kinds of packing peanuts.

I, for one, despise them all. Nothing is more challenging—or frustrating—than trying to unpack something covered with Styrofoam peanuts. First, they fall apart and small pieces scatter everywhere. Second, these small pieces as well as whole peanuts stick to everything: the product, clothes, hair, furniture, carpet, you name it, they stick, and the more you try to avoid them the more they spread. They get into cracks and crevices of the new product, stick to your couch, and turn up later between your toes. Packing peanuts are, in a word, diabolical.

Styrofoam packing peanuts are 95% air. Thus, they easily blow in the air and float on water, hence the nickname “White Pollution.” They’re reusable and in loose fill fashion, allow air to flow through packaging yet interlock under pressure.

Sound good? But: polystyrene peanuts are not biodegradable (unless you count gradual breakup over 500 years), are not water soluble, give off toxins when they do finally fall apart, and are highly static.

In the United States we throw away about 2 million tons of this stuff per year, most of it ending up accounting for 25-30% of the waste in landfills. It can kill birds or fish mistaking it for food.

Efforts have been made to find a biodegradable alternative to polystyrene packing peanuts. Starch and other food-based peanuts are now used by some companies. Usually they’re green to signify their recyclable, biodegradable qualities. They’re heavier, water soluble, non-toxic, and non-static, but more costly. Nordstrom, at least, is there, having switched all packing materials to biodegradable soy-based peanuts.

A new paper-based peanut called PaperNuts has also been developed. PaperNuts are not made from oil or food materials, aren’t static, toxic, or heavy. They’re made from recycled paper, and are recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable.

Styrofoam packing peanuts periodically steal into our home inside an opaque box, like Greeks hiding in the Trojan horse entering Troy. I consider them the enemy and while the Greeks defeated the Trojans I try to get the upper hand on packing peanuts.

Here’s the battle plan: Don’t touch the peanuts with your hands, use an old towel to wipe peanuts from the product, thus allowing inevitable static to stick peanuts to the towel. Clean the product of peanuts while it’s yet in the box. Do your level best not to let the Greeks, I mean the peanuts, into your house. Keep them inside the horse, er box. Get the box of peanuts outside your house as soon as possible, as in immediately. If you don’t, pieces of will travel and you’ll find bits of static poly for weeks to come.

I say, “Down with polystyrene packing peanuts. Up with paper peanuts.” And if this won’t work, drive to the nearest retail establishment and by your product, specifying no packing peanuts allowed.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


It’s happened again, a charged showed up on one of our credit cards that I did not approve.

How or why did this happen? Because the company involved, from which I had purchased a software product more than a year ago, sent me an email—an email—saying they were going to “renew” my software unless I responded and cancelled. In other words, my card was going to be charged unless I specifically wrote, in essence, “Don’t charge me for something I didn’t order.” Since I thought the email was spam I didn’t read the fine print, deleted it, and moved on. This seemingly rational act was apparently a mistake.

This kind of unauthorized charge is now happening on a too-regular basis because more companies are operating in an aggressive and, I’d say, unethical manner. Particularly in a tight economy they want to make sales, so they’ve devised new ways not to offer a better product but to trick people into paying for their current product.

Such companies also know that people often don’t take the time or trouble to deal with an unauthorized charge—meaning the company may get away with the charge—if it falls below their particular hassle threshold. For example, are you willing to make multiple calls and chase people, write letters and emails (keeping copies of all of them), threaten to call your attorney, and run up your blood pressure for an unauthorized charge of, say, $22.95?

We get magazine announcements stating “You qualify for continued subscription services,” which means that if you don’t contact to cancel you’ll be invoiced for a magazine subscription you never ordered.

One person on a blog I read said unauthorized credit card charges are “like a roach motel; once you get in you can’t get out.”

As I’ve said, I think this is unethical behavior. Or at a minimum it’s a reminder of that classic capitalist principle caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.”

But wait a minute—I didn’t buy anything; I was just charged for it. Two thumbs down for companies that practice this bad business tactic.

Credit card companies and business watchdog agencies are at least aware of this questionable practice. Click here for advice on how you can get unauthorized charges removed.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


Some 70% of leisure travelers and 63% of business travelers say a free hotel breakfast is important in their choice of a hotel. It’s convenient, generally saves a few dollars while saving a lot of time compared to breakfast in a restaurant, and gives you the option of grabbing a bite and going back to your room to work until a later check-out.

Some say a “free breakfast war” might develop among mid-priced hotels. Hope so. It would be good for road warriors. Here are a few ideas hotel executives could consider:

Better coffee. No one expects hotels to compete with Starbucks, but too often you get coffee that’s weak, not hot and at times actually tepid, or offered in cheap styrofoam cups with flat lids that are difficult to use.

Real eggs. You wouldn’t believe how many times you reach for the scrambled eggs only to discover they’re powdered, dry, and inedible.

Real Orange Juice. The watery orangey stuff that passes for orange juice—actually some kind of bad kool-aid—in most hotel breakfast bays is, well, awful.

Whole Milk. Some hotels provide a whole milk option but most do not. Most offer skim and 2%. Adding another choice wouldn’t cost the hotel more because people wouldn’t drink both, just the one they really want.

Variety. Hotels apparently think people stay one night only, yet most business travelers regularly stay in given cities for multiple nights. The same breakfast choices each morning is disheartening.

Hotels can't be expected to turn into restaurants unless they add a restaurant and charge accordingly. But "free" hotel breakfasts have been a welcome accommodations innovation in the past twenty years. Here’s hoping they take them to the next level.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at